Canada unexpectedly loses 1,800 jobs, widely missing forecasts

Canada’s economy lost 1,800 jobs in October, widely missing economists’ expectations of a 15,000 gain.

Kelsey Johnson | Reuters

OTTAWA — The Canadian job market stagnated unexpectedly in October, losing 1,800 net positions, while the unemployment rate remained at 5.5 per cent, Statistics Canada said on Friday, as employment declined in the manufacturing and construction sectors.

Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a gain of 15,900 jobs in October and an unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent. Wages for permanent employees rose by 4.4 per cent, Statscan said.

Canada lost 16,100 full-time positions last month, but gained 14,300 part-time jobs. The number of self-employed workers in October fell by 27,800.

The Canadian dollar weakened to a three-week low of $1.3232 to the U.S. dollar, or 75.57 cents U.S., after the jobs data was released.

“It definitely runs against the grain of very strong job gains we’ve seen through most of the past year,” said Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, noting there was likely a “small, temporary boost” because of hiring tied to last month’s national election.

“We have to be cautious about reading too much into any one report, but it shows that the economy is not simply on a one-way trip north here,” Porter said.

Canada’s central bank, which has not moved since October 2018 even as its counterparts – including the U.S. Federal Reserve – have eased, held firm as expected last week, but left the door open to a possible future cut to help the economy weather the damaging effects of global trade conflicts. The Bank of Canada said it would monitor “the extent to which the global slowdown spreads beyond manufacturing and investment” going forward while watching domestic data.

“I don’t think one number will move the needle a whole lot at the Bank of Canada, but at the margin it’s a little bit more of a cautious signal,” Derek Holt, vice president of capital markets economics at Scotiabank, said of the jobs report.

Statscan said the services sector gained 39,000 jobs in October, with increases reported in public administration, as well as finance, real estate, insurance and rental leasing industries, while the goods-producing sectors saw a decline of 40,900 jobs on losses in manufacturing and construction.

The country’s manufacturing sector lost 23,100 jobs in October, mostly located in Ontario, while the construction sector lost 21,300 positions across five provinces, Statscan said.
In a separate release, Statistics Canada said the value of Canadian building permits dropped by a larger-than-expected 6.5 per cent in September to $8.3 billion because of declines in the residential sector.

Source: Financial Post

Brookfield acquires mortgage insurer Genworth Canada in $2.4-billion deal

BANKING REPORTER | The Globe and Mail

Brookfield Asset Management Inc.’s private-equity arm is making a long-term bet on Canada’s mortgage market with a $2.4-billion deal to take control of Genworth MI Canada Inc., the country’s second-largest mortgage insurer.

Brookfield Business Partners LP, a publicly-traded subsidiary of the global asset manager, is acquiring a 57-per-cent stake in Genworth MI Canada from the mortgage insurer’s American parent company, Genworth Financial Inc.

Brookfield will pay $48.86 a share for nearly 49 million shares in Genworth MI Canada – a 5-per-cent discount to the price at Monday’s close on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but an 18-per-cent premium compared with the date when the company was formally put up for sale.

The deal appears to relieve a headache for Richmond, Va.-based Genworth, which has waited years for regulators to approve a separate deal that would see the American company acquired for US$2.7-billion by a privately held Chinese buyer, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co. Ltd. That transaction, which was first announced in October, 2016, has stalled while awaiting approval from Canadian regulators and federal officials, who are required to consider the potential impact on Canada’s mortgage industry and have held the deal up over national-security concerns, even after U.S. regulators gave it a green light.

Earlier this summer, Genworth Financial announced it was considering “strategic alternatives” for Genworth MI Canada, seeking to break the deadlock. That raised the prospect that, absent a suitable buyer, Genworth Financial’s stake in its Canadian subsidiary might have to be sold into the public market at a discount. But Brookfield emerged with deep pockets and the industry expertise needed to take control.

“We are pleased to find such a high-calibre buyer for our interest in Genworth Canada,” said Genworth Financial president and chief executive Tom McInerney.

Genworth Financial’s share price shot up 15.8 per cent on Tuesday, and Brookfield Business Partners shares rose 2.7 per cent, but stock in Genworth MI Canada fell 1.7 per cent.

The Canadian arm of Genworth is a rare asset. It is Canada’s largest private-sector mortgage insurer, providing a backstop against defaults to residential mortgage lenders, and it trails only the government-owned Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) in size. Its only privately owned competitor is Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company, which is jointly owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and financier Stephen Smith.

Genworth Canada currently has a 33-per-cent share of the country’s mortgage-insurance market, while CMHC holds half and Canada Guaranty the remaining 17 per cent, according to data from RBC Dominion Securities Inc. But the federal housing agency has been ceding its share to the private insurers.

Genworth’s improving position in a highly consolidated market made it a logical target for Brookfield Business Partners, which seeks to acquire and manage companies in sectors where the barrier to entry is high. Brookfield also has extensive expertise in mortgages and housing: It is one of the largest residential real estate developers in North America, active in real estate financing, and owns the Royal LePage brokerage.

Brookfield Business Partners managing partner David Nowak described Genworth Canada as “a high-quality leader in the mortgage-insurance sector,” in a statement.

The total share of mortgages that are insured has been falling, from 57 per cent in 2015 to 41 per cent in 2019, according to a recent CMHC report. The shift toward uninsured mortgages comes as regulators have tightened rules on mortgage lending, requiring borrowers to meet stricter tests to qualify for mortgage insurance.

Even so, the housing sector as a whole has continued to grow, adding a steady stream of new demand for mortgage insurance, particularly from first-time home buyers. And Brookfield is betting that Genworth can grab a larger share of the market, making full use of Brookfield’s deep relationships with banks that do the lion’s share of Canada’s mortgage lending.

The deal is expected to close before then end of 2019, subject to approvals from Canada’s banking regulator and Minister of Finance.

Brookfield is not currently looking to acquire the 43 per cent of Genworth MI Canada’s shares that are owned by other investors. But Jaeme Gloyn, an analyst at National Bank Financial Inc., said that prospect “is not entirely off the table” and “would likely unfold at a premium” to the price Brookfield is paying for control.

Ratings agency DBRS Ltd. called the deal “positive for Genworth Canada,” which has been more stable than its U.S. parent.

Oceanwide Holdings consented to the transaction and extended the deadline to finalize its own deal with Genworth Financial until Dec. 31.

Source: The Globe and Mail

If you’re counting money in Ottawa, that must sound pretty good. In Alberta, it doesn’t mean a thing.

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B.C. finance minister says budget on track, province to lead country in growth

Finance Minister Carole James says British Columbia’s economic growth remains “strong and stable” and the budget is on track to record a surplus in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

James said Monday, November 26, 2018 the operating debt, which builds up when tax or other revenue misses spending pledges made in a budget, has been reduced to zero for the first time in four decades.

The province’s second quarter results for this fiscal year show a projected surplus of $1.35 billion, she said.

The Finance Ministry forecasts GDP growth of 2.2 per cent this year, while the value of all goods and services produced by the province is forecast to climb by 1.8 per cent in 2019.

James said risks facing the province include a $250-million drop in Crown corporation earnings, mainly due to losses at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, as well as a slowing down of the housing market.

To offset those risks, she said a fund that covers potentially volatile revenue changes has been increased by $600 million.

“That additional prudence is very critical … to help mitigate any kind of provincial revenue impacts,” she told a news conference at the legislature.

The B.C. Liberals say property tax revenues are expected to decline by at least $400 million, which means the province is becoming more dependent on personal and corporate income tax revenue.

Shirley Bond, one of the party’s finance critics, says they are concerned about the tax burden on business because of government plans to charge medical service plan premiums and the employer health tax in 2019.

“The burden is compounded with the introduction of the new speculation tax and the devastating effects it is already having on the construction industry with cancelled housing starts and lost jobs, as well as continued increases to the carbon tax and an increase to the corporate tax rate,” she said in a news release.

James said RBC and other analysts remain positive about economic growth in B.C., forecasting the province will remain a leader in Canada this year and next, even before the benefits of a liquefied natural gas development in Kitimat are added to projections over the next several months.

“Private forecasters expect that B.C.’s economic growth will be strong. In fact, they are predicting that we are going to lead the provincial rankings in 2019,” she said.

The 2019-20 budget will be released Feb. 19, along with the third quarterly report.

Alberta declares beer trade fight with Ontario over access to liquor stores

The Alberta government is opening a new front in its beer war with other provinces by targeting Ontario for what it says are its unfair trade barriers to Alberta-made suds and other alcoholic products.

The initiative emerged on Monday, November 26, 2018 as Alberta announced a full retreat on its own craft beer subsidies that were found by a judge last spring to be unconstitutional.

“Alberta has the most open liquor policy in the country, offering Albertans a choice of over 3,700 Canadian products … Alberta merchants stock and sell 745 alcoholic beverages from Ontario,” said Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous at an Edmonton brewery on Monday.

“Ontario is the largest market in the country, three times larger than our own, yet we can only find about 20 Alberta liquor products listed for sale in Ontario.”

The complaint under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement is being made against Ontario because it has the biggest liquor market in Canada but it could be expanded to include other provinces with similar barriers, Bilous said, adding he’s hoping for an amicable solution.

Under the CFTA, Ontario will have 120 days to respond to the complaint made in a letter sent Monday morning. The complaint may then proceed to a CFTA panel for a ruling on corrective actions or allowed retaliatory measures, with a provision for either side to appeal that ruling, explained Jean-Marc Prevost, Bilous’ press secretary.

Neither the Ontario trade ministry nor the Liquor Control Board of Ontario immediately responded to a request for comment.

In his letter to Ontario Trade Minister Todd Smith, Bilous complains that Ontario gives local brewers access to stores over Alberta brewers, gives Ontario beverages preferential shelf or refrigerated locations, requires Alberta brewers to provide commercially confidential information to their larger competitors to be listed and gives Ontario small brewers a significant discount on listing costs.

Neil Herbst, owner of Alley Kat Brewery of Edmonton, said he has faced numerous non-tariff barriers when trying to ship his products to Ontario, giving as an example a $400 laboratory fee assessed on a shipment of $1,600 worth of beer.

Also Monday, Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said he will cancel by Dec. 15 a program of grants for small Alberta craft brewers in order to bring provincial beer regulations in compliance with Canadian trade law.

The province will return to a system similar that was in place before 2015, with markups (a tax collected for the province) of $1.25 per litre applied to all beer sold in Alberta by producers of more than 50,000 hectolitres per year.

Smaller brewers, regardless of province of origin, will be able to apply for markups of between 10 and 60 cents per litre.

Alberta dropped its graduated markup system to go to a flat markup on all beer in 2015. It at first exempted brewers in Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta, then changed its rules so it applied to all Canadian brewers but introduced a subsidy program solely for Alberta’ small brewers.

It lost a CFTA panel ruling initiated by Artisan Ales, a Calgary-based beer importer, which argued the grant program unfairly tilted the market against its product.

Last June, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge ordered the province to pay a total of $2.1 million in restitution to Great Western Brewing of Saskatoon and Steam Whistle Brewing of Toronto, finding that the subsidies created a trade barrier against their products.

At the time, Ceci said the province would consider appealing that ruling.

His department says Alberta now has 137 liquor manufacturers, including 99 brewers. It says the number of brewers has nearly tripled since the subsidy program was introduced in 2016.

The province says it will introduce more supports for Alberta liquor manufacturers in the next few weeks.

GM in for ‘one hell of a fight’ over planned Oshawa plant closure: Union

The union representing workers at the General Motors assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., is promising “one hell of a fight” after the automaker announced it would close the location along with four other facilities in the U.S. as part of a global reorganization.

Hours after GM’s announcement, Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, stood before a union hall overflowing with anxious GM workers and said the union will fight against the planned move “tooth and nail.”

“They are not closing our damn plant without one hell of a fight,” Dias told the audience, some still drenched from holding an impromptu picket line in the driving rain.

He said the plant has won “every award” and was the best by “every matrix.”

“We are sick and tired of being pushed around. And we’re not going to be pushed around… we deserve respect,” he said.

GM announced the closures Monday, November 26, 2018 as part of a sweeping strategy to transform its product line and manufacturing process that will see the company focus on electric and autonomous vehicle programs, a plan that it said will save the company US$6 billion by the year 2020.

“This industry is changing very rapidly, when you look at all of the transformative technologies, be it propulsion, autonomous driving… These are things we’re doing to strengthen the core business,” GM chief executive and chairwoman Mary Barra told reporters Monday. “We think it’s appropriate to do it at a time, and get in front of it, while the company is strong and while the economy is strong.”

GM also said it will reduce salaried and salaried contract staff by 15 per cent, which includes 25 per cent fewer executives. The US$6 billion in savings includes cost reductions of US$4.5 billion and lower capital expenditure annually of almost US$1.5 billion.

GM’s shares in New York jumped as high as 7.8 per cent to US$38.75, their highest level since July. The automaker’s shares closed at US$37.65, up 4.79 per cent.

The impending shutdown is “scary,” said Matt Smith, who has worked at the Oshawa plant for 12 years. He said his wife also works at the GM facility and the pair have an 11-month-old at home.

“I don’t know how I’m going to feed my family,” he said outside of the plant’s south gate, where workers instituted a blockade for trucks from the entrance.

“It’s hard, it’s horrible! We have always been the best plant in North America. It’s a kick in the nuts.”

Unifor, the union representing more than 2,500 workers at the plant, said it has been told that there is no product allocated to the Oshawa plant past December 2019.

Production began at the Oshawa plant on Nov. 7, 1953, and in the 1980s the plant employed roughly 23,000 people.

GM is also closing the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Detroit and the Lordstown Assembly in Warren, Ohio in 2019. GM propulsion plants in White Marsh, Md., and Warren, Mich., are also due to close as well.

The automaker did not say the plants would close, but used the term “unallocated,” which means no future products would be allocated to these facilities next year.

On top of the previously announced closure of the assembly plant in Gunsan, Korea, GM will also cease the operations of two additional plants outside North America by the end of next year.

The closures come as North American automakers feel pressure from U.S. tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Last month, GM rival Ford Motor. Co. reported a US$991 million profit during its third quarter, but said tariffs cost the company about US$1 billion. Of that amount, US$600 million was due largely to U.S. tariffs on imported steel and US$200 million from retaliatory tariffs imposed by China on American vehicles, Ford said.

The restructuring announcement also comes after Canada and the U.S. reached the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, after months of strained negotiations.

Under the new trade deal, 40 per cent of the content of automobiles must be produced by workers earning at least US$16 per hour to qualify for duty-free movement across the continent. The agreement also stipulates that 75 per cent of the automobile’s contents must be made in North America in order to be tariff-free.

Last month, as GM reported a US$2.5-billion third-quarter profit, the automaker also said it was aiming to cut costs by offering buyouts to roughly 18,000 white-collar workers with 12 or more years of service. That represented more than one third of the company’s 50,000 salaried workers across North America. Workers had until Nov. 19 to decide, and they would have to exit by the end of the year.

And in July, GM executives said pressure from commodity prices and foreign exchange rates had been more significant than expected and the automaker expected a US$1-billion additional headwind, with the biggest exposure being steel.

Meanwhile, GM’s Barra said Monday the company will be investing in autonomous and electric vehicle technology. Vehicles have become more “software-oriented” and GM will be looking to hire more employees with the “right skill set” going forward, she said.

“You will see us have new employees joining the company as others leave the company,” Barra said.

The changes announced Monday will not impact GM’s new trucks and SUVs, which are Barra said are “doing very well.”

The Oshawa plant, however, has been producing an older model, she said.

“Oshawa is building the previous generation trucks that are very helpful in the crossover period… As we’re transitioning to the new truck architecture,” she said.

The timing of the decision was surprising, but not the decision itself, said Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. He pointed to the steep production decline over the past 15 years from nearly a million units to roughly 148,000 units in 2017.

“The writing has been on the wall for quite some time so it was a matter of when not whether they would make this move,” he said in an email.

The decision is “devastating” for workers at the plant and auto suppliers, but Oshawa has adapted over the years and will survive this as well, DesRosiers added.

In addition to the Oshawa assembly plant, GM has an engine and transmission plant in St. Catharines, Ont. and the CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said it was a “difficult day” for the Oshawa plant workers, Ontario auto part suppliers and their families.

The provincial government has begun exploring measures to help impacted workers, businesses and communities cope with the “aftermath of this decision,” including a training program to help local workers to regain employment as quickly as possible, Ford added.

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